The Japanese city of Sendai is perhaps best known for its gastronomic cuisine, colorful festivals and amazing craftsmanship. The city was founded in 1600 by the powerful lord Masamune and is now one of Japan’s largest cities.
Imagine having an entire mausoleum dedicated to himself and his family. If your name is Date Masamune and you are the founder of Sendai, that’s a reality. Here on the beautiful and very colorful mausoleum rests Masamune and his descendants. Surrounded by solid cedar and ornate buildings, this place is a delight to the eye. There is also a museum that exhibits historical artifacts that belonged to the family, including something as grotesque as bone remains and hair kisses.
Sendai Castle is also called Aoba Castle and is really just a castle ruin. The then castle was built by none other than Date Masamune and placed on a hill high above the town. The idea of the placement was that it would be protected from enemies, something that unfortunately did not work very well. The castle has endured both fires and wars and nowadays only external stone walls and a watchtower remain. Also on the site is a statue of Masamune, sitting on a horseback wearing armour and weapons. Adjacent to the castle ruins is also a museum that displays artifacts from the castle’s glory days and tells about its history.
When you drive into Sendai, it is almost impossible to miss the 100-meter-high statue that stretches up over the city’s core. The statue is one of the world’s tallest and depicts the Buddhist bodhisattwan Kannon. Kannon, who is said to embody the concept of compassion and sympathy.
The statue can be visited inside and at the top offers a fantastic panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. The inside of the statue is additionally covered with beautiful paintings and contains 108 Buddhist statues that all represent different human emotions. When in Sendai, Kannon is a must to visit.
If you are interested in architecture, a visit to Sendai Mediatheque is a must. Designer and architect Toyo Ito wanted to challenge the world of architecture and created a cultural center characterized by visibility, innovation and creativity. Kulturhuset houses everything from a library and art gallery, to media production and information centers for people with visual and hearing impairments. The cool house has walls of glass with the aim of being inclusive and open to the surrounding community.
The first thing that strikes the mind when you think of Japan is perhaps sushi, noodles and temples. But Japan also offers a wide range of beautiful nature experiences. The Akiu waterfall is said to be one of Japan’s most beautiful. With its 55 meter high fall, surrounded by beautiful deciduous trees, an almost scenic oasis forms around Akiu. If you’re feeling brave, you can hike down the slippery steps and feel the water dripping on against your hand. This place is best to visit in the autumn when the deciduous trees are colored in yellow and red and create an almost enchanting atmosphere.
About 40 minutes bus ride from downtown Sendai is the rural little village of Akiu Traditional Craft Village. Here, nine craftsmen work with various traditional Japanese crafts that have been inherited since time immemorial. This quaint little village offers a cozy and rural tranquility where you can enjoy either shopping, or trying to create yourself. Either you can try painting traditional Kokishi dolls, varnishing chopsticks, or watch traditional Tansu dresses sewn up.
Many of Sendai’s historic buildings were built by the powerful Date Masamune. The shrine of Osaki Hachimangu is one of them. The name Hachimangu comes from the god who is said to be the patron of the city and the shrine is erected in his honor. The shrine is a fine example of contemporary Japanese architecture and the ceiling is completely covered in black lacquer, gold leaf and a lot of brilliant colors. Don’t miss out on buying omikuji, a small piece of paper that is said to bring happiness and prosperity.
The beautiful Risshakuji temple is located in the town of Yamadera, a bit outside Sendai. The temple is also called Yamadera, or mountain peak temple because it is located up among the mountain peaks of Yamadera. The hike up to the temple requires some fitness, namely there are 1000 stone stairs that must be climbed, but it is definitely worth it.
As you begin your walk, you are greeted by “the eternal light of Buddhism,” a burning flame that is said to have burned since the temple was built in 860. Walk on through the mysterious forest covered in lush cedars and then be met by the views of the valley and the spectacular temple area. Not only is the temple known for its scenery, the famous Japanese poet Basho wrote one of his most famous poems at the top of the temple.
The impressive Umino-Mori aquarium opened in memory of the great earthquake that took place in Sendai in 2011, destroying large parts of the city. On an area of 9900 square kilometers, the basins of the aquarium stretch. Here, aquatic animals such as sea lions and dolphins swim to small fish and otters.
The pride of the aquarium is the great tank Inochi Kirameki Umi, which in Swedish can be translated as “the shimmering life of the sea”. About 25,000 shimmering fish of 50 different kinds swim here. Take the opportunity to check out one of the shows where dolphins jump, and sea lions spin balls on the snout.
The beautiful avenue Jozenjidori Ave is Sendai’s most famous street as it is lined with thousands of Japanese zelkova trees. Here on the 700-meter-long avenue, the branches sway with their young foliage, forming a tunnel of leaves that protect from the sun’s warm rays. There are also lots of cozy shops, traditional restaurants and cafes.
A number of festivals are arranged on the site. In the autumn, the Jozenji street jazz festival is organized for music-loving jazz enthusiasts, and in winter, the Pageant of Starlight is organized when the zelkova trees are lit up by hundreds of lamps. Don’t miss out on a stroll on this fascinating street!
Sendai Tanabata is a major festival that celebrates the legend of two stars who have fallen in love with each other, but have become separated on their journey through the Milky Way. The festival is also known as the “star festival” or “the seventh evening”. Namely, legend has it that once a year, on the seventh day of July, the stars meet again to celebrate their love. The festival adorns the city with large colorful paper ornaments that soar over the busy streets below.
Note that Sendai residents celebrate the festival in the month of August, as they go by older traditions as the festival was originally celebrated in August. Take the opportunity to stop by some of the food stalls and taste real traditional food from the Sendai area.
Yagiyama zoo is a fun destination for the whole family. There are over 600 animals from 122 different species. Get acquainted with giraffes and African elephants, venture to sumtra tigers, lions or polar bears. Here you can also interact with goats, sheep and small animals, hike up the monkey mountain or peek at the endangered black rhino. In addition, there are four social chimpanzees and a number of red pandas. Expect half a day to see everything.
The Miyagi Museum of Art mainly houses works of art from Miyaki Prefecture and the Tohoku region. In addition to contemporary Japanese paintings, wood prints, sculptures and handicrafts, there are also original images from post-war Japan. The museum is a bit special in that you can create art yourself and learn how to print on wood or paint in the Japanese way. Do not miss to wander around the museum’s beautiful garden where several sculptures and statues are embedded among flowers and plants.
If you are looking for a nature experience beyond the ordinary, head to beautiful Rairaikyo Gorge. This beautiful valley is created through millennia of erosions of the Natori River. Hike across the beautiful bridge of Nozokibashi and enjoy the color contrasts of the leaves reflected in the water. Do not miss the unique and special rock formations of Nariaisoko and Hakkeniwa. This place is best to visit during the autumn when the beautiful deciduous trees go in red and yellow. Don’t forget to have your camera close at hand to take photos of this enchanting place.
The beautiful Shrine of Shiogama Shrine has a history of over 1200 years and is seen as one of the most important religious sites in the Sendai area. The god of the shrine seems to know a little bit of everything. He is said to be the protector of both fishermen who go out on the high seas, and of women who are about to give birth. Every year various festivals and events are held here. For example, you can watch an archery tournament on horseback, or go to a festival that pays homage to the saltworks industry. Is there anything that this shrine does not have? In fact, it doesn’t seem that way. In addition, there are over 300 flowering cherry trees that color the area in pink during the spring months.
Again, it’s Date Masamune and his life story that take center stage here at Sendai City Museum. The museum has a valuable collection of over 97,000 objects such as art, weapons, armor and ceramics. Masamune was a ruthless warrior who was called “the one-eyed dragon”, but despite his fierce exterior, he loved fashion, art, calligraphy and drinking tea.
Masamune’s impressive art collection was then donated to the museum by his descendants. Here you will find, among other things, a 400-year-old helmet, and Masamune’s pitch-black armor. Step into a world of art and history and definitely don’t miss the museum’s beautiful garden with colorful flowers, an old-fashioned teahouse and ancient castle ruins.
Don’t worry, we got you covered with the most important information below.
Sendai International Airport is called Sendai Airport (SDJ) and is located 14 km southeast of Sendai.
Address: Minamihara Shimomasuda, Natori, Miyagi 989-2401, Japan
Telephone: +81 22-382-0080
You don’t have to worry about holding tight to your valuables or walking around with larger sums of cash. Japanese are a very loyal and well-behaved people with very few thieves and the like. Watching younger children ride the subway by themselves home from school alone is not an uncommon sight to see in Japan. Of course, there are everywhere, but Japan has very few of them.
Order a JR pass if you plan to move to other cities. If you are only going to be in Osaka, you can do well to pay for your transport at a time. But most visitors take a week in Tokyo and then move on to Kyoto, Osaka and other popular cities. These train distances are quite expensive without JR passes, we therefeore recommend getting one before your departure to Japan. Getjrpass.com is an official ravel agent and seller of these Japan Rail Passes with no middle man.
The metro is well-functioning and cheap – a recommended means of transport. Tickets are very easily purchased by machine on site before entering or via pre-loaded Suica card. Most distances are combined with JR lines and Metro lines to reach your destination in the city.
Suica card – a fantastic IC card that can be preloaded with money to easily blip beverage machines, subway and other machines for a cashless and fast payment. Alternative to the card is Icoca Card & Pasmo Card.
Taxis are everywhere, but are quite expensive. The metro is so functional that Taxi is not needed.
The city has lots of beautiful parks. Enjoy good food and take it easy, enjoy your visit to Japan.
Japan uses Japanese Yen – JPY.
We recommend a smaller exchange before the trip at Forex or another currency exchanger to be able to pay for transport from the airport if you have decided to activate your Japan Rail Pass at a later date, for food and drink on site upon arrival and so on.
Safe ATMs for cash withdrawals can be found around the city. You don’t have to worry about walking around with larger amounts of cash as the country is very safe. Of course there are jerks in the country, but Japan has extremely few of them.
7-eleven usually has a very good exchange rate at their machines. When withdrawing larger sums such as thousands of euros, it can differ up to hundreds of euros against what you get at Forex if you exchange before the trip. We therefore recommend only bringing a smaller amount and withdrawing more cash on site.
Do not exchange at the airport. Visit a bank or 7-eleven in town.
Tips are not appreciated by the staff and can sometimes be considered disparaging.
If you want to tip, ask the staff beforehand if it is okay. Most likely, you will get a no, as tips are not part of their everyday life.
Visit out other travel guides and explore the fantastic country of Japan. We add new destinations weekly and please, feel free to suggest new destinations to the travel guide if you’ve been in Japan before. We appreciate all the suggestions!
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